There is an interesting article in yesterday's, 12/28/04, New York Times about the public's reaction to the negative news recently about pain killers like Vioxx, Celebrex, and Aleve.
It reminds me of the joke that goes:
Q: What's the three biggest lies ever told?
A: I'll still love you in the morning.
The check is in the mail.
I'm from the government. I'm here to help you.
Ha, ha, ha.
Now the joke can be:
Q: What's the four biggest lies ever told?
A: In addition to the three answers above add this fourth.
We manufacture this drug and our studies prove that it is good for you.
"Some doctors say they are concerned their patients may be overreacting, but psychologists who study how people evaluate risks say the widespread anxiety, raft of lawsuits and feelings of broken trust are neither surprising nor, necessarily, unwarranted.
"Based on what we know so far, it's understandable that people are worried that any risk that emerges with these drugs is probably the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
"They hear that there was one study that didn't find an increase in heart attacks, but then they think, 'O.K., but how many studies have been suppressed?' " Dr. Loewenstein said. "There's a danger of a cataclysmic reduction or collapse of trust in physicians and in the government, and what we're seeing now could be a leading indicator of that."
Studies show that most people, learning of a drug's potentially deadly side effects or some other potential hazard, will accept a certain amount of danger if they feel they have unfiltered information and can properly weigh the risks. But in the last few months, the bad news trickling out of drug companies and from federal health officials has been murky and confusing, psychologists say.
"It's not like there's good information and people don't understand it," said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon. "There's lousy information and people are frustrated and acting appropriately."
I am reminded of the old saying, "When you wonder if its the money or the principle of the thing, you can bet your last buck it's the money."
So, gentle reader, if you want to know the truth about what you are being told about what's good for your health, follow the money. Unfortunately, health care in the last 30 years has become big business and you can't trust that the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs, the government, the hospital, or even your health care provider (and there are some honest, caring ones out there) have your interests primarily at heart.
Since the day of snake oil, Americans have always been very gullible when it comes to their health. Unfortunately, many health care providers are as well. When the drug company salesperson brings gourmet sandwiches for the office staff for lunch, leaves oodles of free samples, leaves imprinted prescription pads, offers to send you to a "conference" in the Bahamas in February, their drugs look mighty fine.
When patients come in asking for the pill they saw on TV last night to take their pain away so they can ice skate like an Olympic star, get a hard penis like an 18 year old, eat spaghetti sauce and pepperoni without heart burn, get out of the doldrums and love life large, shoo their anxieties away so they can be social butterflies, what's a physician to say with a closet full of freebies and 9 more patients to see out in the waiting room before the end of the day in 45 minutes?
What Americans need is good information and health care providers they can trust who will give them the straight scoop, and not prostitute themselves on the altar of commerce.